My eldest daughter occasionally bites off more than she can chew, literally and figuratively. She is four-and-a-half (the half matters), and she is at a stage of curiosity that has caused her to notice some troubling aspects of the world. The other day she asked me what a refugee was, and I tried my best to explain. After a few minutes of silent reflection, she asked if there were refugees in our city. When I told her yes, she immediately asked if the kids had toys and school supplies. Before I could answer she decided they probably did not and volunteered to share her toys and school supplies. A few days later she asked how many refugee kids were in our city, and I told her there were several hundred. Realizing that she did not have enough to share with all of those kids her first instinct was to ask if she could get “her church friends” to help her share with the refugee children.
So she did. She started asking her friends and their parents for help collecting school supplies for refugee families, and what started as one child’s passion to share became a church- and community-wide school supply drive. The best part is that this is not the first or most recent account of her sharing her desire to serve with the rest of the church. Truth be told, it is rather common for her to have an idea to help someone else and then ask the church to help her. For example, one day she was thinking about people who are homeless and hungry, and she decided that she wanted to plant a garden to grow food that she could give to people who do not have food. The problem in her mind, though, was that she did not know how to garden, and her solution was to ask people at church to help her make this happen.
This probably sounds mostly like a dad bragging about the philanthropic nature of his daughter, and that might be true. However, there is something else here that I wish to highlight: in the face of systemic human suffering and need, her first instinct is to rely on her church family to increase her effectiveness in responding to said need. I learn a few important ecclesiological lessons from her view of the church.
First, she thinks of the church as a collective of people capable of countering injustice and social inequalities. In my daughter’s eyes, one of the functions of the church is to identify needs and provide for those in need in a way that is eerily reminiscent of Matt 25:31-46. In her words, “the church is here to help people while we wait for God to bring a new and better world where people won’t need anything.”
Second, she thinks of the church as an amplification of her own individual desire to serve others. When she encounters an issue or need bigger than herself, she relies on the church to be bigger than both herself and the issue. In this way the church is the embodiment of all things being possible with God (Mark 10:23-27).
Third, and related to the second, the way that she shares her desires and needs with the church demonstrates her trust in the church to be a place that cares about her and her concerns. The church is her community, in which she lives and shares her life with others. The church is her home, family, and medium for living out her faith.
I could go on, and hopefully you can see more in her view of church than is listed here, but mostly I hope that, by seeing the church through her eyes, you can see something wonderful about the body of Christ.